3 Best Practices for Educators Working with Military Families

April 24, 2017

Military families relocate 10 times more often than civilian families – on average, every 2 or 3 years.This constant change of location can create stress on military families with young children. It also emphasizes the need for high-quality childhood education that is available anywhere a military family is located in the U.S. or worldwide.

The need for quality, consistency in military family life is helped by well-trained early childhood educators who understand military families and their children. For its part, the Department of Defense has a strong commitment to families of service members. That commitment is one of the reasons why the Council for Professional Recognition provides a CDA Credential specifically designed for early childhood educators who serve military families worldwide.

The DOD’s support of early childhood education produces consistent excellence in family childhood education and care centers worldwide whether they are located on- and off-base. “Military childhood education and care is some of the best in the nation and world. What has helped them to be the best is that they’ve had a strong and deep investment in the Council’s Child Development Associate® Credential. We’re proud to be part of their continuous success,” Valora Washington, CEO, Council for Professional Recognition.

An estimated 40% of military parents have children in the birth to five years of age range.ii Many of these young children attend early education facilities either part- or full-time. The DOD and the Council recognize that the educators teaching military children must be prepared with child development knowledge, but also trained in social emotional skills. It is this knowledge that will equip educators to work with and help any military children who may experience challenges related to their parents’ jobs or their transient military lifestyle.

Potential Challenges Military Families Face
• Relocation – including attending many new child care programs and adapting to new lifestyles• The impact of short- or long-term deployment or relocation of parent(s)
• Emotional and social distress
• Parental health concerns

As an educator working with military children it is important you know how to bring a positive perspective to the difficulties military families might face.iStock-170110499

How Educators Address These Challenges
Reduce stressii
• Offer plenty of opportunities for children to move their bodies – indoors and outdoors
• Plan individual and group options for doing an activity
• Limit the time children have to wait
• Reduce the buzz and glare from overhead lights
• Spend one-on-one time with each child
• Establish routines and rituals
• Have fun together

Connect with familiesii
• Communicate with families daily
• Reflect the military culture in your child care setting
• Encourage families to visit during the day
• Send pictures or videos of the child care program’s daily life to the family

Foster healthy emotional and social developmentiii
• Help develop interactions and conversations to support positive relationships
• Teach children to express and identify emotion and reflect on the perspective of others
• Teach children to work on self-regulation and self-care
• Provide opportunities to be successful and involved in meaningful play

Remember that it’s important to create a routine for each child while having fun with activities. This balance can create a safe and nurturing environment for any young child undergoing any type of stressful event in his or her life.

i 11 Facts About Military Families https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-military-families

ii Mindsets to Support Military Connected Children & Families. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://bkc.vmhost.psu.edu/documents/HO_MIL_GI_Mindset.pdf

iii Washington, V. (2017). Essentials for Working with Young Children (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: The Council for Professional Recognition.


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